Overflow sinks Britten, Joinson gone

A very disappointed Jean-Denis Britten stopped by The Pit for a beer on Wednesday night. The Dawson musher scratched in Pelly after three of his dogs were badly injured in overflow. About 25 kilometres before...


A very disappointed Jean-Denis Britten stopped by The Pit for a beer on Wednesday night.

The Dawson musher scratched in Pelly after three of his dogs were badly injured in overflow.

About 25 kilometres before Pelly checkpoint, Britten’s team went through slushy water that was nearly a metre deep.

“It was enough to sink a dog,” said Britten.

And three dogs in the middle of his team ended up getting dragged through it.

“The whole dog went under and was dragged out of the hole,” he said.

When he stopped about three kilometres later to take off the dogs’ icy booties and coats, he noticed three of his dogs were no longer pulling against their tuglines.

“I’ve run those dogs for six winters and never saw them like this,” he said.

The dogs, which included two of his main leaders, were three brothers.

Britten knew they were injured, but couldn’t tell what had happened.

By the time he got to Pelly, two more dogs were also favouring their wrists.

If he dropped all five dogs, Britten would be down to eight.

“And I’m not going with just eight,” he said.

“I don’t want to just finish.”

It was a tough decision.

Like most Quest mushers, Britten dedicated almost the whole year to preparing and training for this race.

“I had to think about the sponsors and all those who helped us start,” he said.

“But this is really all about dogs, so it was better to stop there.”

When Britten told officials he was scratching, he was told it was “a very honourable decision,” said his wife Marie-Claude Dufresme. “They said many mushers would have continued on.”

Vets looked at Britten’s injured dogs in Dawson.

His main leader, who’s muscles and tendons had ballooned in the rear leg may never run long-distance again, he was told.

Another dog, which took a hit to its chest, had also come down with pneumonia.

So it was the right decision, said Britten.

The next day, Britten was considering running his healthy dogs down the Quest trail to Forty Mile, where mushers can stop in for warm water and stew.

“They are at home wondering why it’s all over already,” said Dufresme.

BC rookie Jerry Joinson also scratched in Pelly.

About 64 kilometres after he left the checkpoint, Joinson dropped onto the river.

“It was pretty steep there and one dog jammed her shoulder,” he said.

Another hurt its back leg.

To fit the two dogs in his sled, Joinson had to get rid of most of his dog food.

He returned to Pelly to drop off the dogs. Then he realized, by the time he got back out on the trail, ravens and foxes would likely be into his stash of food.

If he took more food from Pelly, Joinson would get a time penalty.

“I was down to nine dogs,” he said.

So, Joinson decided to scratch.

“The Quest has been a dream for years,” he said.

“I really wanted to finish the race – I was hoping for the red lantern.”

Joinson is not sure if he’ll be able to try it again.

“It’s expensive without sponsorship,” he said.

“It takes a lot of cash, and when you’re training you can’t really work.”

A carpenter, who teaches the trade on the side, Joinson had to come to the Yukon a month early, just to get the necessary training in.

Then there’s the matter of all the extra gear, he said.

“The whole thing costs me around $30,000.”

Before Joinson decides to give the Quest another shot, he’ll have to talk to his wife, he said.

“There’s all this stuff I’ve never done at home.

“I still haven’t even finished building my house.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at


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